crossing the line

The Springboks saved face to the delight of a nation whose ‘ego’ could not afford any more bruising. The stands at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in PE roared. Much like a small sports club situated at the heart of the Border Bulls dogs home in East London did in 2007, after a mere 15 points proved enough to own the rights to lifting the much coveted Webb Ellis Trophy.

At long last our men in Green and Gold gave us something to smile about (if only for a weekend). ‘Restoring’ the pride of a nation that has this elusive thing called pride in all sort of bags.

For many South Africans this country, this over-sized – yet communal community, these men running on these fields – whether it be a cricket, a white elephant stadium, a swimming pool where young hearts’ pride carries them through. Let it be a track field where the word obstacle is just another motivating fact to keep fighting. Yes, to many SAffers the pride of this nation is a prized possession.

Oh never mind the ‘special cases’ who bodily place their pride in a black jersey (it’s their decision). The ones who trash and tarnish our name at every corner.

Do excuse the ignorant souls who fully embrace ‘the ends justifies the means’ approach. That is all minor compared to the SAffer who celebrate Bok Day, misses Football Fridays (because the new kit is just kak).

Look at the ones who welcomed Graeme Smith with opens arms even after ‘deserting’ them. That’s the SAffer who has your back.

The long-suffering stranger that knows where this country has been and thanks the Lord for what it could be. That’s the brother who will paint a stranger’s house to honour a man he has never seen anywhere other than his TV screen and would probably never meet.

That’s the one whose pride for South Africa will never waver. That’s the one to look at.

The one who raised his glass an notch higher when George Clancy blew his Irish whistle signalling a ‘no whitewash’. That SAffer exists in many households. That’s me.

I didn’t raise mine (not right there and there anyway for I was working) but I did jump out of my chair half-way to the ceiling, screamed my lungs out in celebratory manner that on an average day would’ve had the neighbours rushing in, only not today because they had just caused ear-drum damage themselves.

However, I couldn’t ignore the terrible taste in my mouth left by Bismarck du Plessis as he made his way to the bench, after John Smit was called to sub him. I have never been less impressed with a pro-athlete.

As I tweetted I’m a huge du Plessis’ brother’s fan. That said, I have always and will forever raise the sportsmanship flag first and foremost (that is why Indian skipper MS Dhoni is one of my favourite people).

In his Front Row Grunt blog Sport24 publisher Tank Lanning took the words out of my mouth saying

“Bismarck du Plessis’ reaction to being hooked for John Smit, no matter the situation, was despicable.

Sure he had enjoyed an excellent game, and had just been instrumental in sneaking a tighthead against the All Blacks, but what was he expecting – a full 80 minutes? 

That smacks of disharmony in the team, and management are going to have to sort that out quickly”.

While Tanks’ blog (read HERE) goes into a bit of detail on who the better hooker is, this is not about that.

Please understand I am not disputing that the youngest du Plessis had an incredible run, and is arguably the best hooker we have (if not in the world) he does however needs a serious attitude adjustment…..and fast!

You may join the number of sport lovers on Twitter who have done everything but slay me for the above statement, saying he was justified, kindly accept that I have to disagree.

I do admire and appreciate his passion for play and to want to win. But when passion is placed before respect it is useless. Best hooker in the world or not, his attitude did not honour that status.

It didn’t serve the game, disrespected management who made the call. Undermined his long-standing captain and it most certainly didn’t honour the sportsmanship code which I value beyond any talent.

I have been a ‘below-amateur’ athlete since primary school and today most of my Saturday are spent at a volleyball court in University of JHB colours, while on Sunday afternoons I don my soccer boots for NCC.

My (volleyball) captain has never warmed the bench while I’m on court (thank God). But we have butted heads when she pulls a look of disappointment to her players.

I’ve missed training and coach punishes me by putting on someone else in my spot. I don’t always approve, and sometimes throw my toys. But at the end of the day in team-sport no one is bigger that the code, and no one should be allowed to think they are.

With the weight of criticism (already) sitting heavily on his (massive) shoulder, dare imagine how learning that his own team-mate has no faith in him must’ve made him feel.

He’s the captain. Whether we choose to question, accept that or not. Fact is he IS the captain. The one given the responsibility to lead. Placed in authority by people who trusts in his leadership. Oh never mind that it was his last (ever) test match on home soil!

Jannie  received the same fate, only the older du Plessis was a good sport about it.

I can only hope big brother can remind Bismarck that sport – especially team-sport – has no room for unprofessional, immature brats, regardless of ‘standings’

Rugby pundit Morgan Piek summed it up nicely when he said

“Bismarck reaction was nothing less than pathetic and immature. I have never seen John Smit react like that when he (Bisie )replaces John Smit on 60 minutes.

That is why John Smit is our super captain and that is why John Smit is the starting hooker

In pride, there are just some lines one doesn’t cross. And in my eyes (whether intended or not) Bismarck jumped over this one and that should not be unacceptable.

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9 thoughts on “crossing the line

  1. Its a difficult thing to warm the bench when you more or less the better player. I cant help but be reminded about Byron Kelleher warming the bench all his career for Justin Marshall. The likes of Barrit, Watson and many others made an exodus up north, with many claiming frustration with selection and even crime among other things. I still cry for Clyde Rathbone(tear) even old Kevin Peterson who does duty for England Cricket team.
    I have alot of respect for players who stick it out in SA to don the green jersey, it has a lot of history and sentimental value to most South Africans. No one is bigger than the team, no one. With that said I still love Bissie though whether his reaction upset the supporters his still worlds best, Im definately not condoning his behaviour, just saying I understand.

    • Firstly; I’d like to highlight two things. What I’ve already said on the post – which most people seemed to have missed. I am a Bissie fan. I truly admire him and his contribution to SA rugby. Secondly: This is not about who the better player here.

      Anyhow; I truly appreciate you trying to ‘understand’ Bissie’s reaction, I do too, and so do many SAffers who read this. But understanding and acceptance are two totally different things, and what I was trying to highlight was the lack of sportsmanship shown by so many players lately. As Tyron mentioned the likes of Balotteli belittle the code, as did Bissie.

      Thank you kindly for honest opinion.
      PS: KP’s move sadness me all the time, a great loss to SA cricket.

  2. Personally I feel that one of the main traits sports teaches one (as a sportmen especially) is descipline. With rules in place, one is bound to RESPECT rules in general and respect whomever when it is due. So dear Kate, I agree. No such behaviour is acceptable especially at national level when you’ve just about seen it all.

  3. I agree whole-heartedly with you Kate! The way Bismarck behaved was distasteful. Passion should never override respect, especially in a team environment, whether on or off the sports field.

    Unfortunately, some sportsmen and women across the globe allow their fame to get to their heads. This is not a good example being set for young, up-and-coming stars. The coaching staff and management team of sports stars should be conditioning them to become humble. Their fellow team mates should also be reminding them from time to time of this obligation. It should be acknowledged by these stars that they are a talented few and that the rest of us look to them to provide entertainment. Having said this, it should never be forgotten that this is just a game, no matter how passionate a supporter we may be. Let’s not forget the brilliant reputation Bismarck has!

    I don’t believe that this incident will remain in our memory banks for too long, so we should just move on and consider this a minor indiscretion.

  4. @Tyron, I could not have said it better myself. Sure, john might not be in the best form of his live, he has entered his twilight as you said. People tend to be blinded by their harsh and sometimes over-exaggerated crisis of the man that they tend to forget that he has been the Springboks’ and the World most successful hooker and captain.

    Bismarck has been taught by the best and been moulded into a phenomenal player. Rome was not built in a day, but it burnt down in a day. Just a little bit more patience and the world is his oyster.

    He is in my opinion, going to become a greater player than John. People will talk about him for years to come. He must just create his own legacy and not worry about the one that John worked very hard on to create for himself.

    I wish both of them the best of luck for the World Cup and I am sure they will both stamp their own unique mark on it.

  5. Howdy Kate

    Team sport is about so much more than one player. John Smit is the first to preach this and will live it happily. There is no doubt in anyones minds as to who the better hooker is right now. Bismark is heading into the best years of his career and John is in the twilight of his. That being said, one thing that sepaks louder than words is respect. I will never be a fan of Mario Ballotelli. In the community shield he was substituted, threw his jacket down and walked down the tunnel. He has not played in the premier league this season.

    Bismark was having a great game and must be frustrated that he is taken off, because that shows he wants to be on the field badly. That frustration however is something that should drive him to keep performing and shouldnt be out on display for the whole world to see. It reeks of disrespect and quite rightly should be punished.

    Come the opening game against Wales, I hope he receives that punishment and sits on the bench for 60 minutes, instead of being on the field for 60 minutes, lets see how he shakes his head then!

  6. Kate I have to agree, knowing you and Adam, I can fully believe what is written here. Unfortunately I didn’t see the substitution take place, but had I seen it, I too would probably feel the same way; any professional sportsman should have the professional character to go with it.

  7. Kate –

    That was a really great read. As you know I am a fan of both John Smit and Bismarck. The most disappointing thing is, being a Springbok is not just rocking up on game day and pulling a green and gold sweater over your head. It’s a “Lifestyle”. You have to understand that you as Bismarck du Plessis, are an ambassador to the whole Springbok brand, and to me most importantly, you represent the entire nation. Kids look up to you guys and idolise you. You have to be any example.

    We don’t have to think too far back, last year in the FIFA World Cup Cristiano Ronaldo spat and the camera after losing to Brazil. (Now that I think of it, it was in Port Elizabeth as well). I’m sorry if I may sound harsh, to me the Bismarck and the Ronaldo incidents are one and the same thing.

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